Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Powerful Message

I've said it before and I'll say it again because it can never be said too often: never forget to fight for equality in all things!




(hat tip: American Irish)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Laura Kinsale - The B and C Teams

It's back to All Kinsale All the Time, folks! Huzzah!

Today we'll debut the B and C Teams. Lest we forget, there's no such thing as a bad Laura Kinsale book! The Kinsale awesomeness, it overflows, but it was requested that I rank them in some manner and so I chose to do teams. Click here if you missed out on the A Team.

For clarification I'll explain how a book might not end up on the A Team (you know, those bundles of perfection in book form:). I put any book on the B Team to which I had some sort of reaction that took me out of the story. I don't feel like this is a reflection on the book but on myself as a reader. I put any book on the C Team that I felt had a minor flaw** in craft that took me out of the story.

**flaw in a Kinsale novel???? sgwordy, surely you jest!!!! ^^


And now to the teams:


The B Team (listed in no particular order):

Uncertain Magic - Roderica can read minds which makes her family a bit wary of her and makes her a bit wary of crowds. She's led a relatively sheltered life due to this and is convinced she will follow in the footsteps of her forebears that have had this gift/curse and live isolated with her family. At a horse race she meets the "Devil Earl" and is tickled pink when his mind is closed to her. He's got a reputation to make Lucifer squick but Roderica feels it's her only chance at a family of her own. The "Devil Earl" can't believe a (really! rich) heiress will have him with his reputation but he's jumping at the chance before she can change her mind.

This is a great pairing of protags and Kinsale perfectly captures the doubts these two would have in each other. I really enjoyed watching them develop trust for each other and how hard they worked to rebuild his manor. In fact, I enjoyed the manor building bit so much that the challenges they faced in that became just as heartbreaking for me as the tension between them personally. What took me out of the story is totally spoilerish so highlight if interested: "Devil Earl's" mom was definitely intriguing to me - and I thought made for a great history with the mystery regarding his father - but that she then spent the rest of her son's life following him around causing his blackouts and then pinning nefarious deeds on him was a bit much for me.

My Sweet Folly - Despite herself Folie falls for Robert via their correspondence while he is in India. They have never met in person and it is only by chance that they begin to write. When she is left a widow she has hopes for a possible future with him but there is more to Robert than the whimsy of his letters.

If for no other reason this book must be read for the letters. Holy heroin, they be some major crack! (and the epilogue - sigh:) And I quite enjoyed the mystery of just what the shit was going on with Robert. Folie has a great sense of, well, life really and has such a fun outlook on things that I almost always smiled while she was making her observations on what went on around her. I really liked getting to know more about Robert as he had encounters with the people from his past but the wild plot connections took me out of the story. They weren't contrived, just really ambitious and for some reason weren't smooth for me.

The Hidden Heart - Tess is making her way back to England after years with her father in the Amazon. She's returning to fulfill the promise she made to him before he died of making a good marriage. Captain Gryph is to transport her and her samples home and, bizarrely, is tasked with keeping an eye on her suitors for eligibility. Gryph is a little torn on this as he's quite taken with Tess himself but does not feel he can court her himself. Their friendship grows but is tested when Gryph discourages a match between her and a man Gryph knows to be psychopathic fuckwit.

This is an absolutely sweet love story and I love Tess's determination. Gryph is more inclined to passively take what comes his way but Tess works pretty hard to get what she wants. It's fun to watch her interact with Gryph since they approach situations so differently. What took me out of the story here was Gryph not using his spine when it came to telling Tess about the aforementioned fuckwit. I mean, seriously, this guy was bad news and Gryph let what I would consider a misunderstanding of decidedly non-epic proportions completely floor him when he should have explained about the psychopath.

Shadowheart - The intriguing Allegreto from For My Lady's Heart is back. He's exiled from his home but about to make an aggressive return. Into his path is thrown the Princess Elena. Through her he makes an even bolder claim to his homeland. It turns out Elena is much more than a pawn to be used in political games, she's a woman more than willing to make plans of her own and do whatever it takes to enact those plans.

This book is a total mind-blower. Holy shitballs it will throw you for a loop, and just when you've got your stomach settled it's time for a few more loops. Buckle up, folks, it's safer if you do. I would never have thought there could be a match for Allegreto but Elena is incredible. In fact, there's too much to say about these two so I'm going to let them have their own post (and the illustration of the value of the feminine AND masculine working together in this book is so fucking awesome that that will be part of the other post as well) so for here I'll just say this book only very barely didn't make the A Team. It's a 100% failing on my part as the reader because Kinsale hits it out of the park with the awesome writing and characterization here. Anyway, it was the BDSM that took me out of the story. I didn't think it was offensive or anything, in fact, it was so totally dead-on for the characters that I can't imagine the book in any other way but it still bumped me out of the story.


The C Team:

Midsummer Moon - Absent-minded Merlin is a genius inventor and only wants to be left alone to work on her flying machine. Ransom is one pompous Duke in His Majesty's service with very specific instructions where Merlin is concerned. Merlin really couldn't give two shits for what Ransom says she has to do but after some funny "salt" leaves them in a compromising situation Ransom now has two reasons to officiously order her about.

This is a lighthearted book with, again, two well-matched protags. Their interactions are hilarious and fun, even if the Duke has a corn cob up his butt most of the time. I love how he is constantly ordering Merlin about and she is constantly ignoring him. And the hedgehog pet that Merlin keeps is worth his weight in comedic gold - and might just be the best "hero support" of all time. The supporting characters are fantastic and interesting additions to the story. There's also some wonderfully quotable lines in this book. Merlin has this tendency to make direct and honest observations that really make you stop and think. She's so much fun (I think she and Folie would have been great friends). For all this yumminess, though, the book is too long. Comedy is so much harder to sustain than drama (so extra kudos here for making a comedic romp work) and if the book had been shorter it would have been absolutely bang-up. However, the length makes the plot drag a bit so you want to start skipping to the end.

The Dream Hunter - Zenia has been raised by her eccentric English mother in the desert. She dreams of a home in "green" England and hopes to go there after her mother's death. Without resources she ends up having to guide Lord Winter deep into the desert, somewhere she really doesn't want to go again, in exchange for passage to England. Lord Winter isn't a total dick, Zenia's dressed as a "Bedui boy" as a disguise and so he thinks he's taking a boy of the desert as a guide.

I like Lord Winter as a hero and I think his character is a very interesting contrast with Zenia and his family in England. It's incredible to see the way he faces things in the desert in comparison to how he faces up to his filial obligations at home. Zenia never evened out for me. I found her to be passive with incredible endurance in the desert but when in England she became belligerent and shrill. I couldn't reconcile her earlier passivity with her later obstinacy. Her behavior constantly took me out of the story [Further comments spoilerish so highlight if interested: It's quite possible if she hadn't been so shrill and so damn batshit crazy about the child I might not have found such fault with the inconsistency but batshit crazy due to child is one of my least favorite tropes. Also, her suddenly turning into her mother didn't work for me as an explanation because it had so often been described earlier that she was conditioned to serve due to her upbringing. I think the batshit crazy due to child was supposed to have affected the change but I just didn't buy it].



Sadly, that's the lot of them. *sniff* It's hard to be out of Kinsale... but I can always re-read and her newest, Lessons in French, will be out in February. Can't wait!
[ETA: Actually, I think this will be out the end of Jan so even better!]


I'd also like to take just a moment to send out a cyber THANK YOU to Kinsale for all the hours of enjoyment I've had with her books!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tales of Vesperia

As Mr Musacha and I navigate the twisting turns of political intrigue in the latest Tales installment my response thus far can be summed up in one sentence:

sgwordy says... "I'm trying to be indignant but I'm so fucking bored."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Laura Kinsale - The A Team

It's a good day, People. I'm wrapped in my Christmas quilt - sipping a Dark and Stormy - while the tree lights twinkle on a mild evening. Could anything make this day better? Oh, it appears I'm surrounded by piles of Laura Kinsale books, so yes!

After many requests from Mr Musacha I'm finally getting to my mass review of Kinsale novels. Since I've spent the last two months completely immersed in reading and rereading (and rereading) her titles it's about time I got around to saying a few words.

First off, there's no such thing as a bad Kinsale book. These things are like crack and just when you think you're free it's suddenly "holy shitballs I didn't notice that the first time around!" I really think it takes two readings to truly understand her characters and sometimes three. It's part of the crack - you're reading going WHY WHY WHY is this character doing that and then it finally comes clear at the end and you have to start reading all over again so as to analyze what you missed the first time around now that motivations have become clear. Ah, lovely!

Within the awesomeness, though, there is a bit of variation. So to divide the novels (and this post) up in a manageable way I'm doing A, B, and C Teams. (anybody else having a flashback to middle school sports?) So without further ado let's get started on the largest of the teams:


The A Team (listed in no particular order).

Flowers from the Storm - A rake of a Duke with mad math skilz suffers a stroke-like ailment resulting in loss of physical coordination and possibly his sanity. In the hospital, Maddy - who has a previous connection with the Duke through the mad math skilz of her father - becomes his nurse. When his family is ready to give up on him she believes he can recover and works hard to assist him in that.

I love these two characters and their relationship with each other. Kinsale portrays the helpless frustration of Jervaulx to such a degree that I felt my limbs stiffening in sympathy when he was trying to perform simple tasks. Further, Maddy's struggle to reconcile her Quaker upbringing with her feelings for the Duke (and his lifestyle) is easily understood and, more importantly, maintains a believable tension between our protags. It's easy to see how the two would see problems in a totally different way and so imagine completely different solutions for those problems. Watching them find a middle ground upon which to connect has brought me back a few times for a re-read.

This book also has one of my all-time favorite lines (quoted loosely): Christian smiled. This was something perfectly familiar - a woman who ought not but very likely would.


The Prince of Midnight - Leigh has lost her family and seeks the skilz that will help her exact revenge. To this end she seeks out the Prince of Midnight, a famous highwayman of the Robin Hood variety. Unbeknownst to her he has suffered a debilitating injury leaving him depressed and isolated. Despite his injury, and Leigh's obvious scorn, the PoM is determined to help her.

I love this book because I fell for the PoM right away - and damn hard - and couldn't figure out what the fuck was up with Leigh. How could she resist this guy? In fact, I was so hardcore fawning over this dude that upon the first reading I felt Kinsale was making Leigh start fights just for the sake of some tension. But that's the beauty of Kinsale, what is sometimes not clear right away to the reader becomes clear as you get to know the characters better. Leigh is way smarter than me! I was totally taken in by the image and the dream world that the PoM maintains but Leigh was one smart cookie. She knew what kind of man he was and the life he would choose over his declarations of love. But since this is the romance world and we know we're getting our HEA, rest assured that our hero comes to see the unsustainability of his dream world. [Spoilerish, highlight if interested: And I love what Leigh needs from our hero. When she asks at the end for him to give her joy again I had a huge smile. It seems like such a small thing but Leigh was so torn after losing her family and the PoM was just the person to revive her joie de vivre].


Seize the Fire - Olympia, raised in England, is the rightful heir to a small kingdom whose people seek independence from the monarchy. She's happy to abdicate her throne but wants to ensure the freedom of her people rather than a family member from taking over the throne. As luck would have it, an acclaimed navy captain has returned home and is her neighbor. She goes on a visit to ask for his assistance, little does she know that he's dead broke, not much of a hero and has no scruples about swindling a princess.

This book is 500 kinds of intriguing because our hero insists on acting decidedly unheroic. He's seen more battles than he ever wished to, knows them for the ugly things they are, and is suffering from PTSD. In fact, he spends most of his time trying to avoid trouble (like a revolution sponsored by the individual being rebelled against) which becomes difficult when Olympia, who is completely naive about the world, trundles after trouble with the innocence of a baby going after shiny objects.

One could argue that our heroine is not much better. She's pretty meek and her naivete makes her gullible but she has a goal and the ability to observe what is going on around her. She is so out of her element that she makes plenty of mistakes and learns slowly but when able she will try to seize a moment to her advantage.

I love this book but I find it a hard read. The weighty subject matter and the challenges our protags face (not least of which are internal) make my little heart ache at times. But the special chemistry between Olympia and Drake make it worth it and I can't stop reading because I just have to get to the HEA.


For My Lady's Heart - Lady Melanthe is trying to orchestrate a daring escape. She's playing her greatest enemies against each other, lying to them both and just trying to reach her home alive. The Green Knight is an accomplished fighter and admired by those around him. When Melanthe sets him against his liege lord he is torn between the loyalties he has set for himself. Banished by his lord, he now finds himself tasked with Melanthe's safe travel but he has no knowledge of her dangerous plans.

Getting to know the Green Knight is an especially compelling part of this book. He seems quite the simpleton compared to the complexity of Melanthe's life and history. But as we get to know him his life and history are as intriguing as that of Melanthe but in a completely different way.

There's nothing fantastical about this book but it holds the most fairy tale like aspect for me of all of Kinsale's books (even when compared to Uncertain Magic - I know, riddle me that!). The English dialogue incorporating Middle English whenever possible lends quite an atmosphere to the reading. Additionally, the Green Knight's code of chivalry puts me in mind of fairy tales and knightly deeds. And now I need to go dig out my copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for a reread.


The Shadow and the Star - Leda's got a bit of a problem. She's an orphan who was taken in for a gently-bred raising but now finds herself without money or the ability to find a respectable job. Luckily (?) an enigmatic gentlemen (who's done a little creepy night prowling) offers her a job as his secretary. She's aware of the endless opportunities for improper interactions and works very hard to avoid them (as she knows full well her erstwhile guardian would have expected) but Samuel practically thumbs his nose at propriety consistently making Leda uncomfortable.

Even if this book wasn't awesome in all ways it would still launch immediately to the A Team for the simple fact that our hero is a Whitey McWhiterson NINJA in Victorian England. NINJA! in Victorian. England. And it works! How is that even possible? Oh it is!

Samuel's history makes for an extremely hard adulthood. He has immense shame over his past and the way he envisions "making up" for something that is not his fault is a little bizarre. He's world-weary and completely naive all at the same time (and a ninja, don't forget that). Wonderfully contrasted by this is Leda. I've heard a lot of people don't care much for Leda as a heroine but I think she kicks all kinds of ass. Her determined straightforwardness and infuriatingly strict etiquette made me laugh out loud more times than I can count. On the surface this makes her pretty simple but like all good romances she's the perfect - the only - heroine that can match our hero. She's loyal, steadfast, observant, sympathetic, loving, honest, and surprisingly flexible when it comes to those around her. You wouldn't think it at first due to her Miss Manners attitude but it's absolutely true. I can see how these characteristics might not come through as the most exciting but if you remember Sammy from The Hidden Heart you know that Leda is exactly what he would need.


And that's my A Team. Check back for the B and C Team post and, in the meantime, find yourself a Kinsale novel to read; it's time well-spent!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Verbs

This article waxed a bit poetic for my taste but I loved the section on verbs:

The passive voice in particular was a crisis. “Was” only told you that something existed—this was not enough. And on this topic, I remember one of her fugues almost exactly:
You want vivid writing. How do we get vivid writing? Verbs, first. Precise verbs. All of the action on the page, everything that happens, happens in the verbs. The passive voice needs gerunds to make anything happen. But too many gerunds together on the page makes for tinnitus: Running, sitting, speaking, laughing, inginginginging. No. Don’t do it. The verbs tell a reader whether something happened once or continually, what is in motion, what is at rest. Gerunds are lazy, you don’t have to make a decision and soon, everything is happening at the same time, pell-mell, chaos. Don’t do that. Also, bad verb choices mean adverbs. More often than not, you don’t need them. Did he run quickly or did he sprint? Did he walk slowly or did he stroll or saunter?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Great Debaters

Another successful foray into cinema for sgwordy - huzzah! The Great Debaters was inspired by the true story of the debate team at Wiley College in the 1930s. Their coach was Melvin B Tolson, an American poet, and they became famous for crossing racial lines by debating - and winning - against prestigious white schools.

I thought the movie was really well done. I give it a very high recommendation not only on its merits as a movie but as an introduction to an important part of American history. I say introduction because, like many other movies based on real events, the Great Debaters parts company from true history for inexplicable reasons. The essence of the story is there but for whatever reason the movie makers decided to make changes that I saw no need for. It's interesting to me when this happens because it's often something that seems to make very little difference. It would be just as interesting and easy to tell the true story but instead changes are made. Hollywood! I'll never understand it.

Regardless though, it's a movie worth seeing and a topic well worth researching. Also, I had not heard of Tolson before and I look forward to looking into his writing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hitman Game vs. Film - Q&A

I recently posted about the Hitman movie adaptation and how it's friggin' awesome. To get a little more insight on this story as it relates to the video game I asked Mr Musacha a few questions:


Q - What is the basic storyline of Hitman and do you think the plot of the movie captured it well?

A - The Hitman games star Agent 47, a highly skilled assassin with a perfect record in the field. He was trained since childhood by a company called "The Agency", who have no specific national or political affiliations. Agent 47 doesn't make specific contact with The Agency itself (nobody knows where it's located), but rather gets his missions through a handler named Diana who talks to him via a network connection on his briefcase/laptop. The games usually follow a series of his missions, and there's often some overarching plot that he has to solve as well. For example, in Hitman: Blood Money, the Agency is under attack by a rival company called "The Franchise". Everyone in the Agency is wiped out except for 47 and Diana, so he has to determine who is controlling this new company and eliminate their top assassin.

I think they did a pretty good job of capturing the Hitman plot. The big difference is that 47 was genetically engineered from the DNA of five great killers in the games, and he was ultimately betrayed by the scientist that created him. In the movie, they were orphans and he was betrayed by his company. The change didn't bother me, since it would have taken a lot of dialogue to explain the soft-science in the game.


Q - What did you think of the casting?

A - Loved it...I thought that might have been one of the strongest parts of the movie. That Olyphant dude looks EXACTLY like 47, and they got the costumes right as well.


Q - Did Agent 47 behave in ways you would expect based on the game?

A- For the most part, yes. Agent 47 doesn't talk much in the games, but I concede that wouldn't work in the movie. They still managed to keep his dialogue minimal. The deadpan humor from the games is definitely present, and a big part of the games is stealing uniforms to infiltrate restricted access areas, which he does in the film.


Q - I felt his gadgets were underused in the movie. You got to look at them a lot but not actually see 47 using them. What type of gadgety mischief are you able to get up to in the game?

A - Gadgets (and guns) are a big part of the games. Though they didn't emphasize his gadgets in the movie, if you played the games and kept a sharp eye out during the movie you'd see a lot of familiar equipment. He uses the fiber wire to choke a guy out and the movie starts with him using a remote mine. He also uses some kind of knockout injection on Nika...you get knockout and poison syringes in the game. Most of the gadgets are used for either silently eliminating guards or for making assassinations look like an accident.


Q - Does a character like Nika exist in the game? If so, did she translate to the screen well?

A - Actually yes. In Hitman: Contracts, Agent 47 rescues a woman named Mei-Ling from a crime lord's brothel so he can get information about his target. He later ends up saving her from another brothel and she kisses him. But Nika was a much bigger part of the movie than Mei-Ling was in the game, and I thought it was a good change. If for no other reason, they needed a character that would be more naturally inclined to TALK!

Diana is also accurately portrayed in the movie as the woman who talks to him on the computer. And there's an obscure character named Agent Smith, a CIA agent who assists the Agency, who was also in the movie. [Mr M provided more info on Smith but it's spoilerish, highlight if you're still interested: He was the guy who does a "favor" for 47 by helping him escape at the end].


Additional comments?

Only that I really enjoyed both the movie and the game, so I'm pretty excited to get a crack at Hitman 5 when it comes to the Xbox 360.


Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hitman

I saw this movie in the theatre with one of my girlfriends back in '07. We both really liked it and I kept meaning to watch it again with Mr M. Flash forward a couple years and Mr Musacha and I finally sat down to watch Hitman over the holiday break. I have to admit that there was a part of me wondering if it was as good as I remembered and if it was the type of movie to hold up to a second viewing. I'm happy to say it rocked my sox a second time. This movie is the shit!

It's based on a video game of the same name. My memories of watching this game are few, mostly it was hotel corridors, cool camera shots, and the awesome music. As far as I can tell it was a good adaptation of the game...but maybe I'll pose a few questions to my in-house gaming expert for more details on that...

Anyway, the movie is excellent in its own right. The casting is great, the action is fun, the plot holes are few (being based on a video game we'll give it a little leeway here), and the obligatory beautiful woman is a totally awesome character and well matched in looks by Agent 47. My quibbles are so few with the movie that I don't even want to go into them. I'd rather gush over the great script, the awesome way the director was able to evoke the game with the great screen shots, and the dead-on ending.

Rumor is they will be making more films. I'll definitely be there to see them. I'm not sure it's the same writer though so I hope the next script is still good!

from the game:


from the movie:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Huggy Bunch

I think we all know how much I enjoy the Assassin's Creed environment but did we all know that I love it a huggy bunch? No? Well, that's ok because I didn't either. But here is the official announcement that I am incorporating "huggy bunch" into my vernacular and that my first use of it is to say: I enjoy the Assassin's Creed environment a huggy bunch! Huzzah!



huggy bunch hat tip

Friday, November 20, 2009

Assassin's Creed II - Launch Trailer

Well, people, we've finally made it. ACII has officially released. Of note - in addition to what I will now assume is an assassin tradition of Conspicuous Dress, we've also got the oh-so-sneaky assassin's Conspicuous Walk with us again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Charlie Wilson's War

I watched this movie the other day and was pleasantly surprised. From the trailers I had no idea it was based on a book about an actual person or, in fact, that it would be any good. I'll be heading over to the library asap to get the book but I enjoyed the movie in its own right.

The movie tells of a covert operation in Afghanistan in the early 80s that helped to repel Soviet occupation of the region. The story is extremely compelling and the acting more than serviceable but what really blew my skirt up was Mike Nichols' directing. Holy shite, it was like the man had a string that was connected to my head and my heart which he could pull on gently saying, "I want them here!" And I was with him the whole way.

Charlie Wilson doesn't exactly have the typical personality one imagines for a humanitarian. Mirroring that, the movie doesn't have the typical attitude of cinema geared towards social commentary. It's earnest for sure but not sentimental or a straight-up satire. Really, it's a brand new way of looking at a story and it rocked my socks. I didn't know if I should laugh, cry, or bang my head against a wall until it was bloody. Weird, I know, but you've got to trust me on this one and see the movie.

Charlie Wilson said, "These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world...and then we fucked up the end game."

Laura Kinsale and the Nog Own Me

Laura Kinsale's books are like crack to me. I truly think they work upon me in the classic addict sense. Once I start one of her novels I cannot put them down. I'd complain more, or enter some sort of recovery program, but then I'd miss out on all her awesome characters and that would be criminal indeed. I only just discovered her books this Fall and I think I have only 4 left. Egads! What will I do when I have read them all? Besides snivel and twitch in a corner (natch) I will turn for solace to my holiday season weakness: Egg Nog!

Yes, the Nog owns me as well. I'm quite certain it's ill-advised to consume something until you get sick but with the Nog there is no choice. I just can't stop!

Can't even imagine the crack high I could get if I sipped (read: chugged) a glass of good ole Nog whilst reading the last of Kinsale's books. ah, sweet bliss.


note: when i've finished all her books i'll post a mass review for them so check back later if you want more details on crack in book form

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Assassin's Creed II: Lineage

Awesome prequel videos are available for details on the lineage of Ezio, ACII's protagonist:




I'm relieved to see that our assassins continue to use such tactics as conspicuous dress and death of at least 3 additional people for each target. Clearly this was not an aberration of Altair's and I have high hopes that Ezio will continue it. Course, if I had an awesome outfit like that I wouldn't bother to try and hide it either.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hulk Displaced

I hadn't thought it possible but Hulk has been replaced by a new contender for worst movie ever! Hulk has held this undisputed honor for 6 years now. Egads! 6 years it's been! That's how bad this movie is, not even 6 years is enough to erase it from one's mind. Oh the length, the boring, the inexplicable ending, the tragedy of Connelly's anorexic-looking body, the leaping across deserts in only two bounds, the decidedly non-Hulk impactions in the ground...oh the bad! It was just so bad! And it's quite a trick to get me to dislike any movie that stars Eric Bana - for fuck's sake, I'd watch the man eat cereal for 2 hours!

Zack Snyder was having none of that! He says - sgwordy, you think that's a bad movie? You think Ang Lee's got anything on me in the making overlong movies department? Ha! Naive woman! Let me present to you, Watchmen!

sgwordy responds - Oh no, no, Zack, please spare us a Hulk rival! Really, it's not necessary.

ZS (gravely) - Oh but it is!

And bring it he did, with a vengeance!
Long for no reason? check
Boring? check
Filled with inexplicable events? check
Long periods of what can only be called narration? check

In fact, ZS took it one step further by committing one of sgwordy's top crimes - ugly guys, hot women (the term womEn is barely needed as there were only two). We ladies only got one respite from the uggies and Billy Crudup was blue and glowing most of the time. However, he has an excellent voice so I would say he was the best casting they did to give Blue Guy a nice voice.

One of the most amazing things is that Mr Musacha and I skipped several chapters and the movie still felt like one of the longest experiences of my life.

And the ending! Ugh, spare me your obvious delight in thinking this is the first time this idea has been thought of and implemented in the arts. Please! I watched that whole movie just for that? They could have at least tried something original to make it worth it. And did anyone not see the bad guy coming? He broadcasted his badness in every way except tattooing it on his forehead (jury is still out on whether or not that would have improved his looks).

And one last gripe before I leave off this tirade. When the Young Hot Woman and Blue Guy were on Mars (I think?) with the super cool glass (again, I think???) contraption and Blue Guy had his huge revelation about all events leading to the miracle that was Young Hot Woman thus making him change his mind, go back, blah blah blah...I think I puked a little in my mouth. Not only is that line cheap and tired I didn't find it at all in line with his character. And I couldn't help but wonder if he would have felt the same way had she been ugly and not a superhero. And also, am I supposed to have a bunch of sentimental feeling for the two of them when he cheated on his old partner to be with her? Whatev!


I've heard the graphic novel is better so maybe I'll try it sometime, though I'm not very good at reading graphic novels. For some reason I have trouble processing visual storytelling with written storytelling. Odd, I know, but so it is.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Amazing Guitarist

This is incredible.



(hat tip: RB)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Great Ad

Enjoy!




(Don't worry, Mr M - I know I owe you later:)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Black Hawk Down: a Story of Modern Warfare

Black Hawk Down was written by journalist Mark Bowden and released in 1999. It depicts the events of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. I thought the book was excellent and well-worth the read. I wrote up a short review about a year ago that I will include at the end of this post but this entry was inspired by a re-watch of the movie (well done adaptation though I have quibbles with the soundtrack).

I've always been interested in military history and the books/movies it inspires. What I find especially compelling about the events in Mogadishu is how they highlight the extremely complicated layers of humanitarian missions. In the age of the Global Society very few corners are dark. We have such a wealth of information at our disposal, and the ability to access events almost immediately after they occur, that it becomes hard to ignore the lives and actions of our Worldwide Compatriots. But on a planet where the Have Nations and the Have-not Nations can seem worlds apart in their technological capabilities and infrastructure, how do we bridge the gap to bring basic services to those that need them? This question is daunting enough and I haven't even mentioned the social or political ramifications involved in trying to give aid. Nor does this question address whether or not interference is the right thing to do.

In Somalia, starvation was rampant. It all started because people wanted to help. People wanted to bring food to those that needed it -they wanted to supply the most basic service, nutrition. It sounds so simple but I've learned that so few humanitarian issues are simple. In this case, the desire to provide food led to outright battle. On the surface it's hard to understand why and if you don't look at the layers you'll never understand. In this case there was politics, civil war, starvation, power struggles, the arms business, and more than I'll ever know not being Somali or, for that matter, any kind of expert on the region.

The point that I'm trying to make, and that Black Hawk Down illustrates so well, is that humanitarian issues are not one problem, one solution issues. I wish I had some sort of brilliant idea to share with the world on this but, again, I'm no kind of expert. I do have one idea, though, and that's to not keep making the same mistakes. What happened in Somalia was not a new problem, and it's not a solved problem. And it's not a problem limited to Somalia. But time and again I see these events played out, especially those that involve military (US or UN) force: people are suffering, they need "x," bring "x" to them, if necessary shoot those that interfere. If the cost, whether monetary or human, becomes too high we bail.

My armchair analysis feels a bit conceited and impotent. After all, what the shit do I know? But then, what the shit do the people in charge know if we have to do this over and over again? Is it poor planning at the outset? Is it better left to NGOs? Is it an impossible problem? Is it even our problem? But can we really sit back and watch people suffer? History tells us no on that last question and there's certainly no easy answer to the others.

One thing that, as an American, I would implore the public and the government to understand is that the solution is not cheap. It costs money, it costs lives - ours and theirs - and we can't keep running when that cost increases. If we won't see it to the end, we shouldn't begin. We Americans have a tendency to poke our fingers into as many pies as we can and then when the pie gets cold we bail. I think it is certain that that is not the solution.



So I definitely recommend learning more about this historical event. It's a timely topic and one that continues to be a part of international relations. Along this same vein, and at one point overlapping with the events in Mogadishu, is another book called Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone by Cain, Postlewait, and Thomson.



My review of Black Hawk Down written in Sept '08:

Black Hawk Down recounts a mission by Task Force Ranger into Mogadishu, Somalia which occurred in October of 1993. What was intended to be a one hour mission to capture a warlord’s top lieutenants became an overnight urban battle after two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down.

Mark Bowden presents a strict account of the Battle of the Black Sea but its style is one of real-time drama. Through extensive interviews and research (much, if not all, of the 15 hour event was captured on video and audio), MB was able to recount the battle from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground. Even though the reader is treated to an almost minute-by-minute, factual account, this book reads much like a novel. Excellent pacing and genuine suspense is created without disservice to real events or needless over-dramatization.

MB did an excellent job of creating the emotional environment of the depicted events. The attitudes of US soldiers and the Somalis are presented without judgment. In fact, this was a strong point of the book. Very often authors fall into the trap of setting the reader up to have a particular reaction to events or characters but MB was careful to allow the reader to come to their own conclusions.

This leads into the one, very small complaint I had about the book. I would have enjoyed a more extensive exploration of the events and politics that led up to this battle. A short history is provided within the context of the story but I would have enjoyed more detail. However, I do not believe that was the intent of the book which may have been why more details weren’t included.

I give this book a very high recommendation. The story is a very interesting part of modern US history and MB recounts the event as truthfully as possible while maintaining an easy-to-read style.

SPOILER WARNING: The following section WILL reveal key plot points.

This warning may not be needed for a non-fiction book recounting a non-classified military exploit that has since been made into a film. Nonetheless, the warning remains.

One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was the capture of a Black Hawk pilot by a group of Somalis. The importance of a captured US soldier, and which group could afford to keep him, was something I had not thought of before. It was also interesting to read the account of the interactions between the captured pilot and the man who cared for him. After the unrest that was deliberately incited by rebels (creating mobs of civilians) the relative quiet of captivity was surprising and, again, not what I would have thought.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Resident Evil: Letdown

Have you ever totally fallen head over heels for something and, even knowing the magic can never be captured again, you hope and pray and obsess over the sequel? You see the advance shots and trailers and the doubts start to creep in... But then you console yourself with youtube videos of your first love and convince yourself that even if it's not as good it's still going to be pretty darn great. But then the gamefly envelope appears and Mr Musacha starts playing Resident Evil: 5 and you can't deny the truth any longer; the latest installment of Resident Evil is so far off from the Awesomeness that was Resident Evil: Leon it's practically criminal.

In the spirit of full disclosure and all that BS I should say that I think Resident Evil: 4 is one of the best games ever made. It ranks up there with Portal and Tales of Symphonia so obviously not just any sequel would be able to live up to that kind of expectation. But still! Did Resident Evil: 5 have to be a failure of jizzwadian proportions? Resident Evil: Leon is itself a sequel so clearly the creators have it in them to step up their game but instead they took a step down, a very HUGE step down.

First off, Chris Redfield is no Leon S. Kennedy. I don't just say that as one who is slightly more attached to Leon than any normal person really ought to be but as one who is genuinely alarmed at the size of Redfield's biceps. Seriously, his upper arms are probably equal in circumference to my thighs! And that neck, it's larger than his head - lay off the 'roids, Dude, it's not like you're employed by mlb! And when he moves around he sounds like a well-armed waterbed. Subtlety? Stealth? No thanks! If Bag-head Chainsaw Guy comes after me I'll just stick my neck out, no way anything's getting through that!

Second off, RE5 is not scary. Not once have I jumped. Not once have I seriously wondered how Redfield and Sheva will get through a scene. And, to tell you the truth, I don't even care...leading us to...

Third off, what the crap is going on? The plot, such as it is, is so bad! After the completion of various scenarios like "find Irving, parts 1-4," a cut scene - usually taking place somewhere else or in someone else's memory - pops up to justify the yo-yo storyline. Cheap! The story doesn't flow at all because you're continually being fed information in a jilty and unnatural way.

Fourth off, the unending waves of zombies get really old when the scary is missing. If all you have to do is pick up ammo and point your gun at more zombies than I think would even fit in Africa (btw, where are they in Africa? anyone recognize that cave as anything resembling something that might be real?) what is the point?

Resident Evil is supposed to be scary and mysterious. This iteration is boring and slightly dizzying due to the weird skewing of the camera over Redfield's shoulder. But since I only watch and do not play I will not comment on camera angles. Maybe it's helpful to the gamer.

So if you're thinking about picking up RE5 to play (or watch:) I suggest pulling out RE: Leon again and doing something worth your time.



You'd think after this the lesson would be learned but I still can't get Assassin's Creed 2 out of my head!!! And the new trailer is soooooooooo pretty!



Oooh, shiny!
Initial thoughts are that I like Altair's name and accent better but I'll hold out, maybe Ezio will change my mind next month.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beyond the Environment, or Beyond Belief

How far does one have to tow before one is "beyond the environment?"




hat tip: B Jobe

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banned Books Week

Join in this celebration of our nation's greatest freedom!

Other links of interest as relate to book challenges:

A librarian's response

Thoughts on the need for this week

Stats on challenges


The best thing about living in a free country is the worst thing about living in a free country. We are all free!

We are all free to live, learn, express, vote, and protest. That means that we often disagree, but it should never mean that our freedom is worth more the freedom of anyone else. We are all free!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The King of Kong

If you liked Spellbound then you'll love the King of Kong! I mean, ohf! It's almost impossible to believe some of these guys actually exist!

Watching the emotions on Brian Kuh's face alternate between almost crying and wanting to push an arcade machine on top of Wiebe was priceless! That poor bastard couldn't hide his emotions for shit and this viewer thanks him for it. And the sycophants around Billy Mitchell were like a bad high school movie about the "cool kids" dumping all over the new guy [Wiebe].

Truth really is stranger than fiction! And in any case I don't think anyone has the imagination to make something like this up. It's like that guy that has a houseful of boxes full of his farts, you just can't make up stuff like that! Who would even think to?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And I Quote...

"I believe that what I do becomes part of me," she said. "When I'm brave and strong, and care for children and the sick and the poor, I become a better person. And when I'm cruel, or cowardly, or tell lies, or get drunk, I turn into someone less worthy, and I can't respect myself."

Caris from World Without End by Ken Follett


It's certainly not a new idea but one worth repeating.

an old favorite

To A Stranger by Walt Whitman

Passing stranger! you do not know
How longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking,
Or she I was seeking
(It comes to me as a dream)

I have somewhere surely
Lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other,
Fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,

You grew up with me,
Were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become
not yours only nor left my body mine only,

You give me the pleasure of your eyes,
face, flesh as we pass,
You take of my beard, breast, hands,
in return,

I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you
when I sit alone or wake at night, alone
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another Offbeat Love Song

You're Only King Once - Beulah

Have you seen that moon-faced kid?
that burned out halo hangs right above his head
it's so hard not to be crushed
when you're praying for too much
and the stars refuse to shine for you
they do it just to spite
well they know you're trying to hard

hoping for a little more than just another kiss goodnight
your face is full and paved with lines
your hair's receding fast and so is your mind
and that lazy eye won't budg
cuz you're praying way too much
and don't take that pill
your head will swell
you'll only be king once
just once,
you'll only be king

smile, please smile
I just want you happy
smile, please smile
I just want you happy

and the stars refuse to shine for you
they do it just to spite
well they know you're trying too hard

smile, please smile
I just want you happy
smile, please smile
I just want you happy
I just want you happy
I just want you happy

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Superiority Complex

I just took a stroll down memory lane (long, long ago memory) by reading a review of Sweet Valley High's Dear Sister. I remember reading quite a few SVH books but I hadn't thought about them in years until seeing this review. It was hilarious good fun to see the book dissected by someone around my age also remembering that they used to spend way too many hours reading these books. But what really caught my eye was her teasing mention of the twins description (included on page one or two of every novel) and how they were perfect 5'6, size six blondes. The reviewer lamented her former self feeling inadequate for not matching up to this "perfection" and she made an off-hand remark about how many other girls might have felt the same inadequacy. And I just had to laugh at my former self (and current self, too, to be honest) and my enduring superiority complex/ridiculously high self image. I distinctly remember reading that description and I distinctly remember my response. It went thusly:

Only 5'6?? Only a size 6??? How freakish! It must be weird and horrible to be that small!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Offbeat Love

I'm a sucker for offbeat love songs. There's something about them that triggers the warm fuzzies and I just oooh and aaah and make a bit of a fool of myself. One of my favorites that's been on the playlist lately is "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus.

Her name is Noel
I have a dream about her
She rings my bell.
I got gym class in half an hour,
Oh how she rocks
In Keds and tube socks..
But she doesn't know who I am.
And she doesn't give a damn about me
Cuz I'm just a teenage dirtbag, baby
Yeah I'm just a teenage dirtbag, baby
Listen to Iron Maiden, baby...with me. Ooh.
Her boyfriend's a dick
He brings a gun to school
He'd simply kick my ass if he knew the truth.
He lives on my block
And drives a iRoc
And he doesn't know who I am
And he doesn't give a damn about me
cuz I'm just a teenage dirtbag baby
Yeah, I'm just a teenage dirtbag baby.
Listen to Iron Maiden, baby...with me. Ooh.
Ooh yeah...dirtbag.
No she doesn't know what she's missin'.
man I feel like mold
It's prom night and I am lonely lo and behold
She's walkin' over to me this must be fake
My lip starts to shake
How does she know who I am?
Why does she give a damn about me?
I've got two tickets to Iron Maiden, baby.
Come with me Friday, don't say maybe.
I'm just a teenage dirtbag, baby...like you. ooh.
ooh yeah...dirtbag.
No she doesn't know what she's missin'.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Pause

The words of William Sloane Coffin, whose son Alex died at age 24 in a car crash.

Tired of hearing well-meaning friends say, “It is the will of God,” he responded with this: “My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die. That when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first to break.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

...teh bad and teh ugly

There wasn't really enough of teh good to include in the title but trust me, going from bad to worse is sometimes TEH BEST!

I came by this line (imagine a tongue not a dental device):

"He delved into the hidden recesses of her mouth"

and was overwhelmed by a case of the giggles. I mean, how big is this mouth? How many recesses could it have and where the bloody hell could they possibly be hidden? I had my wisdom teeth out several years ago and that left me with some recesses but they weren't hidden and I don't think anyone was going to go probing them. Weird and ew.

But then, not three paragraphs later, I read this little gem and just about died:

"His lips milked her lobe..."

His lips? milked? her lobe?

MILKED! her lobe!

Not as refreshing as a cold shower but it gets the same results. I figured this was a sign to stop reading.

Normally I would be annoyed to have wasted my time on a book but I feel my life has been enriched by this opportunity to scoff at recess probing and lobe milking. Ah, teh satisfaction!



btw, for those wondering that was an ear lobe

Sunday, August 9, 2009

TV's Biggest D-Bag

I've been watching some old Ally McBeal episodes on youtube and I'm reminded of all the reasons I stopped watching the show when it was on air. But anyway, I bring this here because I can't think of a bigger douchebag than Billy. Admittedly, I don't watch a lot of TV so I am sure there are many characters that can qualify but I can't think of any character that's supposed to be sympathetic and nice but is actually the world's biggest douchebag. Can you?

I also find Ally McBeal to be a lot like Scrubs. They'd be so good if it wasn't for the main character/narrator.



ETA:
The thing about the Biggest Douchebag Ever characteristic is that he brings down the crowd. So Georgia, who is definitely cool, and Ally, who shows flashes of coolness and is sometimes funny, are completely dragged into the muck for even looking at Billy much less loving him. Billy deserves to live under shit for 5 years but his shenanigans wouldn't go anywhere if those around him weren't hit with the stupid stick every time he walks in a room. And for fuck's sake, he's not even good-looking! What were the writers thinking? This is the reason I stopped watching the show. But because I can skip over Douchebag and Ally's drama and get right to super-awesome Ling I'm trying to keep on keeping on. If I recall correctly Billy dies so there must be some justice in the show.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Images to Love

I don't know who Ubisoft uses for their marketing/graphic design but I am clearly her bitch. Commence drooling:



Just off to check out who made Hitman (video game not movie, though I like them both) because that's another one that I can't resist visually.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Quotes to Love

"Here was something perfectly familiar--a lady who ought not but very likely would."

Christian in "Flowers from the Storm" by Laura Kinsale


Oh Christian! As Bridget would say...fwaaaah!!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dickbag, or Other Slang I Wish I Said

The Smart Bitches have the best slang!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mr M says

Mr Musacha:
I've run out of things to read on the internet.
I've run out of things to read on the fucking internet!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Not Even the Like

Ever have one of those things that everyone loves and you don't? Even better, it's so very much like something you would normally like so everyone suggests it for you? And try as you might you just don't like it? Mentally making your list? Yeah, thought so.

In this case, for me, it's an author. I am not at all a fan of Bill Bryson. It's weird because I love travel and humorous portrayals of people and places. If I'm not mistaken (and I couldn't be since he's been recommended to me so many times) that is exactly what Bryson writes. But holy hell I can't even finish one of his books! I believe I've tried three at this point.

Lucky for Mr. Bryson most people do not feel the same way I do. In fact, I've only met one other person that does not enjoy his writing. Lucky for me there are way more books than can ever be read in a lifetime. No need to dither about on authors I don't enjoy.

And so adieu, Mr. Bryson. I am not trying any more of your books. You certainly will not miss me, your book sales are doing just fine. Wishing you success in all you write!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

He's So Dreamy!

I feel I have been misleading with all the Altair chatter here at sgwordy. I must say that it was not Altair that drew me into the Assassin's Creed world (apparently never to escape) but the excellent graphics and marketing by Ubisoft. Yes, that's right, a video game trailer sealed my fate. But my one true video game love was discovered courtesy of Mr Musacha in my own living room.

I thought Mr M was playing a game but when I looked at the screen it was more like an animated movie (think Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within). Cool, I thought, let's see what this business is all about. And that's when I first saw Leon. He's driving around in this jeep looking a bit dejected (but oh so dreamily determined) with a couple other guys and then bad shit starts to happen. But it was totally cool bad shit and I was immediately sucked into the game. So much so that Mr M was kind enough to not play the game unless I was around to watch.

Regardless of how awesome Leon is (or how much better I would be for him than Ashley or the lady in the red dress) Resident Evil: Leon is the best video game ever made! and that's coming from someone whose played Tales of Symphonia!

Enjoy:





btw, is that a balrog?

Implied History

Sometime in the past year I had a eureka moment in reading. It was the moment I recognized the genius of what I'm going to call Implied History. Often it's quite obvious why a book is so remarkable. But then, just as often, I don't have the words to describe what makes a book so exquisite. I know it is exquisite, I know I can't stop reading, and most importantly I can't stop thinking about the characters. Often it's an excellent premise that sucks me in but when I am drawn back to the same book time and again it's almost always because of the characters. A good plot will only hold up so many times but a character to love becomes a lifelong romance.

This eureka moment was recognizing a great tool in developing characters. It's a tool I can now identify immediately when reading and one I am trying to incorporate into my own writing. This tool is Implied History. Rather than getting a laundry list of characteristics the Reader is introduced to a character through the character's interactions with her peers and surroundings. And it's the character's peer group that can be such a window into her personality.

Learning about a character through the responses of her peers can be a rich and illuminating experience. I enjoy it much more than a random thought tangent by the character or simple narrative. As with all the tools of writing the technique must be applied judiciously and with an eye to craft but oh the joy when it is done well.

I am now exploring this idea of Implied History in my writing. It's harder than it sounds but very rewarding when I feel I've got it right.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tribute?

Am I the only one that can't listen to Lily Allen's "Fuck You" without thinking it's written for George W. Bush?

Look inside, look inside your tiny mind, then look a bit harder
Cause we're so uninspired, so sick and tired, of all the hatred you harbour
So you say it's not OK to be gay, well I think you're just evil
You're just some racist, who can't tie my laces
Your point of view is medieval

Fuck you (fuck you)
Fuck you very very much
Cause we hate what you do and we hate your whole crew
So please don't stay in touch
Fuck you (fuck you)
Fuck you very very much
Cause your words don't translate and it's getting quite late
So please don't stay in touch

Do you get, do you get a little kick out of being small-minded?
You want to be like your father, it's approval you're after
Well that's not how you find it
Do you, do you really enjoy living a life that's so hateful?
Cause there's a hole where your soul should be
You're losing control a bit
And it's really distasteful

Fuck you (fuck you)
Fuck you very very much
Cause we hate what you do and we hate your whole crew
So please don't stay in touch
Fuck you (fuck you)
Fuck you very very much
Cause your words don't translate and it's getting quite late
So please don't stay in touch

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you

You say you think we need to go to war
Well you're already in one
Cause it's people like you
That need to get slew
No one wants your opinion

Fuck you (fuck you)
Fuck you very very much
Cause we hate what you do and we hate your whole crew
So please don't stay in touch
Fuck you (fuck you)
Fuck you very very much
Cause your words don't translate and it's getting quite late
So please don't stay in touch

Monday, June 29, 2009

Preen for the External Fuel Tank

Gives new meaning to blast off!

and give the comments a lookie...I loved this one:

"women in science always seem to get the shaft"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

6 of 6, or Austen Again

And Elinor gets her bumbling Mr. Ferrars in the end. Sigh.

My delicious treat of an Austen marathon is complete. Delights, they abound.

And because I apparently have turned my blog into a plug for Keith Law's blog I am going to offer a counter-point to his number 3. Now, any Austen is better than no Austen at all but I think we all remember that Emma is my least favorite. Obviously KLaw and I disagree but my point of contention is not with our varying book tastes. But I'm not so sure on that character development thing. I would agree that Emma is the most changed of any Austen character by the end of her novel but I don't see character development as only being reflected in how the character itself develops. I think the author developing a character with whom the Reader can empathize is an equally impressive and useful skill. This I think Austen has in spades.

If you've read any Austen then you probably already know that any character is pretty much established within a couple pages of meeting them. Often there are misunderstandings that lead to the Reader being in the dark about some aspect of a character (behold the mighty power of the romance formula) but that's about as subtle as it gets. But each character is fully developed in her/his self. By this I mean that in all situations presented the character is always the character. They don't go off willy-nilly in some direction you would never expect of them. They are entire, complete and ready to face any situation as themselves.

And let's face it, most of the action of Austen's novels occurs over a very short period of time and involves a bunch of people without real jobs that are only looking to get married.

"Who Has?"

When an interviewer told Mr. [Joseph] Heller that he had never written anything as good as ''Catch-22,'' the author shot back, ''Who has?''


In point of fact, it is an excellent book!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gender Bender

In a funny coincidence after yesterday's post [Ed. Note: that post is now deleted] I came by this and my attention was most especially caught by the following:

Was [Margaret] Mitchell so locked in to developing her heroine that she left her male characters all half-formed or even caricatures? Was she unable to cross the gender chasm and create a compelling male character? With only one other completed novel during her lifetime, which she wrote as an adolescent, we’ll never get the answer to this. Reasons aside, that flaw keeps the book from greatness.

My first thought was 'how does it feel?' but I haven't read enough of Law's book reviews as they relate to characterization to be able to say that fairly. It's quite possible he's sensitive to any and all under usage of main characters; especially when those main characters are so important to the story. Regardless, it's nice to see that I'm not the only one that gets irked when a character becomes a caricature.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Emma, finally I have the Like

I never found the Emma Love but this recent reading of Jane Austen's Emma has been my favorite so far. Which is to say I did not find it a chore. It's always been my least favorite of her novels because Emma drives me nuts. And not in a fun, lovable way but in a when-is-someone-going-to-gag-Emma kind of way. And Harriett, ugh, get a spine! Mr. Knightley is darling, of course, but Austen knows how to do a hero.

So what made this reading better?

I tried very hard not to check out. I'm not the sort of person that finishes every book she starts, and I can speed read so if a book is only mildly interesting I usually start to speed read. In fact, the highest compliment I can give a book is to read every word. There are books I love and have read over, but have probably not read every word. Only if a book scores tops on all the important components will I read every word.

So for this reading of Emma I didn't check out when she started driving me nuts. In fact, I was still checked in halfway through the book and that's when it began to pick up for me. Emma was actually pretty funny when she started to gain a sense of humor about herself.

I've not been able to form any kind of theory as to why this Austen seems to be so popular with male critics especially so if anyone would like to propose one I'm all ears! I suppose the 'humbling of the pretty girl' plot is quite popular but using that as a reason seems incredibly insulting to male readers, and all readers really.

I've already mentioned that I like the movie Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) and I distinctly remember describing it as quiet and slow, but lacking nothing in essentials. I stand by this but if you watch the movie directly after finishing the book it zips right by! It pretty accurately depicts many scenes from the book but since it's only 2hrs long those scenes come rapid fire if you've just finished the book. One thing I do think the movie lacks is more boning-on-Emma scenes courtesy of Frank Churchill. In the book I can really get a sense of his bad behavior but in the movie not so much.

I'm now on Sense and Sensibility (6 of 6 in my reading order) and I might even peruse Lady Susan (finally!). But no need to wait on my batting order of Austen novels:

1/2. Persuasion
Pride & Prejudice
3. Northanger Abbey
4. Sense and Sensibility
5. Mansfield Park
6. Emma

My 1/2 is cheating a bit but I go back and forth on those two as my favorites. I do know why they are my favorites and why N. Abbey comes in a solid third: H and H scenes! Romances are fun because we see the heroine and hero together. Of course they need to be separated for most of the story because that's the formula but they should only be separated in love not in actuality. I want to see why they love each other, if they're never around each other I never get any sense of their need to be with each other. I want the interaction, I want to see them seeing each other. I want to fall in love with them too and I can't do that if one or the other is never around to fall in love with.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Top Ten Movie List

In no particular order:

Stranger Than Fiction
Galaxy Quest
Office Space
Braveheart
Moulin Rouge
The Matrix
The Princess Bride
Gattaca
Tombstone
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Cheers/jeers anyone?

Austenland

As they say at Pemberley, I blame Jane! But I can hardly be angry. :) I'm marathoning through her six novels. I've read them all but never in a row. I can eat these up like candy because they always make me laugh. Except for Emma...I always stumble on Emma.

This time, though, I decided to give her a fair chance. I'm trying to really pay attention and find the Emma love. I've been inspired to give her more of a chance due to the critical acclaim Emma often gets and, very interestingly to me, especially with men. Northanger Abbey almost always gets the shaft but I'd rather read it three times over before Emma. And here I am again stuttering over Emma. In my haphazard order Emma is 5 out of 6. I read the first 4 in less than two weeks and I've been on Emma for almost a week now. It's so hard for me to stick with it. I'm going to wait until I've completed it before I go into what it is I dislike...maybe my mind will be changed by the time I finish this reading.

As a movie, I adore Emma. Jeremy Northam kicks some major ass as Mr. Knightley (so dreamy and sexy) and Gwyneth Paltrow makes me feel that Emma love I'm always looking for. Her portrayal is perfect, her Emma is equal parts ridiculous, naive, and genuine. You want to gently wring her neck in the beginning and then it's all smiles when she finally steps a bit outside of herself by the end. It's a gorgeous movie. It's slow and quiet but missing nothing in essentials.

And if you're in the mood for some Austen but you don't have the time to read all the novels I suggest this and this to get your fix!

Nice Cover!

I'm all about the videos lately...and here's another great one!




And they're famous!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Holy Frijoles!

I have a culinary soulmate!

In fact, this guy is worse than I am. I didn't know that was possible!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Osmosis

I would argue that there's no one in the world that knows as much about video games while not actually being a gamer than me. Well, ok, I'm a bit of a social gamer and gems* such as Resident Evil: Leon and Portal will institute the no-playing-while-sgwordy-is-out-of-the-house rule but I would still classify myself as a non-gamer.

However, a constant environment of gaming can actually turn out to be rewarding at times. For instance this line totally cracked me up: "I can tell by how little she's wearing that I'm supposed to like this character yet I feel myself turning on her."

So much about video games is revealed in that hilarious statement. (courtesy of Unskippable over at the Escapist)



*And yes I realize I recently posted a couple Assassin's Creed videos but as you probably noticed Altair broke my heart. Well, I should probably blame Ubisoft...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bugger!

Didn't get to my sandwich yet but when doing some online research I found this bit of awesomeness:

In a science fiction novel, if I describe what's on a desk, the reader will use this to figure out the level of technology in the society.

In a mystery novel, if I describe what's on a desk, the reader will understand that one of those objects is a clue.

In a literary novel, if I describe what's on a desk, the reader will understand it to be a metaphor for the protagonist's mental state.

- James D. Macdonald, discussing Reading Protocols, 6 Apr 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

When Life Throws You a Curve Ball

It appears you should look straight at it!

(hat tip: Mr Musacha)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sableye Yearns for Freedom



This is Sableye. He lives on my left thigh and has not seen the light of day for many moons. Is anyone else sick of winter?

This does make me feel a special kinship with Jocelyn and her desire for freedom to love her William. So much so that she would live with the pigs. And I quote, "Yes, William, with the pigs. With the pigs." If you are not moved by such a passionate answer than you have a heart of stone. This is my opinion and it is beyond contestation!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spinal Crack

Have you ever looked over someone’s book shelf and come away with the distinct feeling that they haven’t read even a quarter of the books they own? Well I would be that person with those shelves. BUT I have actually read almost all the books I own. What I have not done is break the bindings. If you see a book on my shelf with a tattered cover you can bet it was used when I bought it or that I lent it to someone. I can’t explain it but I cannot break the spine of a book.

And this goes for all books!

Even if I’m reading a book I think very little of or what I would consider a “beach read” I can’t mess it up. And I really want to! I want to be one of those people that opens a book and wraps the front cover around. Or one that opens a book as far as they possibly can immediately creating a giant crease in the spine. Those books look so loved and cheerfully worn. But I just can’t do it!

I do love my books and, in fact, I read them over and over! They are cheerfully worn…but only to the observing eye. And even though my first response is one of annoyance when someone returns a book to me that was pristine when it left my house and is now bent and broken, I am secretly delighted that the dirty deed has been done.

Once broken I will happily add more damage.


PS
I recognize the psychosis in this but on the other hand, doesn't it make you feel so much better about lending me a book?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Science!

I thought this article was pretty cool (text pasted below). I didn't do any kind of verification (I have to do that enough at work) so I can't vouch for the accuracy but it seemed pretty reasonable at first glance.

Teen Brains Clear Out Childhood Thoughts

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

The mysterious goings-on inside teen brains have befuddled countless parents over the years. Now some insights are being provided by recent neuroscience research.

Between ages 11 and 17, children's brain waves reduce significantly while they sleep, a new study found. Scientists think this change reflects a trimming-down process going on inside teenagers' brains during these years, where extraneous mental connections made during childhood are lost.

"When a child is born, their brain is not fully-formed, and over the first few years there's a great proliferation of connections between cells," said physiologist Ian Campbell of the University of California, Davis. "Over adolescence there is a pruning back of these connections. The brain decides which connections are important to keep, and which can be let go."

Scientists call this process synaptic pruning, and speculate that the brain decides which neural links to keep based on how frequently they are used. Connections that are rarely called upon are deemed superfluous and eliminated. Sometimes in adolescence, that pruning process goes awry and important connections are lost, which could lead to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, the researchers think.

Brain pruning

Synaptic pruning is thought to help the brain transition from childhood, when it is able to learn and make new connections easily, to adulthood, when it is a bit more settled in its structure, but can focus on a single problem for longer and carry out more complex thought processes.

For example, if a child receives a brain injury before age 10, another area of the brain can often take over the functions of the damaged region. If the same injury occurs at age 20, however, the person may lose a vital ability, because the brain has lost the flexibility to transfer that function to another area.

"The fact that there are more connections [in a child's brain] allows things to be moved around," Campbell told LiveScience. "After adolescence, that alternate route is no longer available. You lose the ability to recover from a brain injury, or the ability to learn a language without an accent. But you gain adult cognitive powers."

Campbell and UC-Davis psychiatrist Irwin Feinberg recorded the sleep brain waves (called EEG) two times a year over five years in 59 children, beginning at either age 9 or age 12. They found that brain waves in the frequency range 1–4 Hz remained unchanged between ages 9 and 11 and then fell sharply, by about 66 percent, between ages 11 and 16.5. In the 4–8 Hz frequency range, which corresponds to a different part of the brain, brain waves started to decline earlier and fell by about 60 percent between ages 11 and 16.5 years.

Overall, these changes are consistent with synaptic pruning, because as neural connections are lost in those areas of the brain, brain waves in the corresponding frequencies decrease. Campbell and Feinberg report their findings in the March 23 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tumultuous years

Synaptic pruning is just one of many changes thought to be going on inside teenagers' brains. For example, a 2005 study found that teenagers can't multi-task as well as adults because their brains are still learning how to process multiple pieces of information at once they way adults can.

In addition to changes that affect how they think, teenagers' brains also undergo developments that affect how they feel. For example, during adolescence people begin to empathize more with others, and take into account how their actions will affect not just themselves, but people around them.

A 2006 study found that the teenage medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with higher-level thinking, empathy, and guilt, is underused compared to adults. But as adolescents mature, they begin to use this region more when making decisions, indicating that they increasingly consider others when making choices.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

sweet vid

A short video made (I think) by the AARP.




How nice!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Talent

I surf over here every now and again for the lovely wit (haven't read any of her novels so can't say anything beyond that I like her blog writing) and this post had me laughing just at the title. It's possible I've been reading too much Smart Bitches, Trashy Books but The Talent seems like a saucy nickname for a large penis.

Apologies to MJ, she wasn't being immaturely crass, that's reserved for me!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Interesting

Margaret Atwood describes a sticky situation.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Letter to a Friend

Question from a friend: I'm finding a lot more time to read. Have you read the Twilight Series. It is a fun romance/drama/horror? I'm almost done so if you have any good books to recommend, let me know.

Answer for a friend:
Oh man, did you ask this of the right person at the right time (or the wrong person at the wrong time depending on how you look at it - I'm about to give you an eyefull:)!?!? I looooooooove to read and am always reading and almost always thinking about new books. On top of that I'm back into my own writing which has sent me zipping around cyberspace getting writing/author tips and so I have been reading a ton of author/book news. To do the best possible job I can it'd be great if you told me what kind of books you enjoy reading. Or rather, if you like a lot of stuff but there are certain things you don't want to read just tell me those so I don't suggest anything that is outside of what you prefer to read.

Anyway, to answer your original question I have not read the Twilight series. I am very familiar with them, their author, etc. I really like young adult (YA) fiction, and I really like fantasy but I often don't enjoy books that are set in high school. I don't mind if the characters are high school age but I need them to be in a setting other than high school. However, I may eventually give these a try. I'd love to hear what you thought of them.

As for some suggestions I highly recommend The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (YA fantasy). This book began a series so there are two books that follow. They are set in a fictional history that is inspired by the terrain of the Greek coastline. I have read each book in the series at least three times. I really like them. :)

If you like historical fiction, Katherine by Anya Seton is very good. It is well-written, well-researched and a true to life 'fairytale' love story. It always makes me feel like a giggly school girl. Another historical fiction book I like (and not at all a love story:) is Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

I'm not usually a big fan of memoirs but The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls was really interesting to me.

Two good non-fiction books I have read recently are:
Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

A few fiction titles that I think are very good are:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay [Ed. Note. I no longer recommend this book]
Pretty Birds by Scott Simon
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Ok, this was probably more than what you were expecting! I tried to give a variety depending on what you are in the mood for. Let me know if you want more (hehe) or rather just some more suggestions in a certain genre. Also, I'm on goodreads.com so if you're interested in sharing book ideas there I can send you an invite to join...I think.

Ah, happy *sigh*! I love talking about books. I miss my book clubs and I miss having a great variety of English language books. However, since the library here [Utrecht, Netherlands] has foreign language sections at all I should probably not complain.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Reading List

BBC believes the majority of people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

After a two (mby three) minute search I couldn’t find actual BBC confirmation of this and then I lost interest.


Instructions:
1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
4) Tally your total at the bottom.

I’m not so much interested in these instructions so I am just going to put comments after each title.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
One of my all time favorite novels
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
A great fantasy trilogy that I have read more than once
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
How can you not like a book that uses the phrase “furniture of the mind”
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
Yep to all 7
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Had to read this one in high school and I thought it was good
6 The Bible
Yep, couple of times
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
This book invented melodrama and I love it!
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
Do it to Julia!!!! Got to love that!
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Been thinking about giving these a read…
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
I read this in college and thought it was crap til the last chapter – then I loved it
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
I did read this but have never understood the appeal…
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
One Hardy book was enough for me and I’ve heard this is quite a slog
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
I love this book and have read it twice
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
Not complete but quite a few, love some…am indifferent to others…
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
I don’t know anything about this book
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
Yes and I like it but not as much as the Rings trilogy
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
Haven’t heard of this…
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
I can’t remember, I get Salinger’s books confused as they don’t seem to make an impression
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
Just read this last week, bang-up first half but the second half wasn’t any fun
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
Nope
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
A couple times actually. I think it was my first 1000+ pager
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
Yes, love this one!
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
Haven’t read it but I seem to recall that it’s very long…probably not cheery either…
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
Nope
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Keep meaning to…
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
Haven’t heard of this one…
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Nope
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Ugh! Steinbeck…tried this and another and yech!
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Nope but I hear it’s worth a read
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Nope
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Nope
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
Nope
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
Can’t seem to muster any excitement about these…
34 Emma - Jane Austen
Yep though it’s my least favorite Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
For sure, love this one!
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
See 33
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Yes
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
Is this more interesting than it sounds? I read the back at the lib. and wasn’t interested
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
Yep
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
Nope
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
Love this one!
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
Yep
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Nope
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
I really enjoyed this one, esp the ex-American jokes, they made me giggle
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
Haven’t heard of this one
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
Yep
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
See 12 (it was Jude the Obscure that I read if you’re curious)
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
Love love love this book!
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Yep
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
Yep
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
BEST BOOK I’VE EVER READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
Ooooh I love this one and just re-read it a couple months ago
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Don’t think so but it sounds so familiar…
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Yep
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
Nope
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Yep and what a random story
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
Love this book!
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Nope
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
A very good one!
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Nope
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
Yep and ugh again!
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
No, but I’ve been meaning to
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
Nope
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
I own this but haven’t read it yet
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
I love Dumas and this is my favorite!!!!
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
Yep but I’m not a fan of the beat writers
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
Aaack! Here it is! Yes, but total crap.
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
LUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRVE IT!
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
Nope
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Have tried twice but can’t get through this boring tome
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Nope
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
Yes and I love it!
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Yep
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
Nope, just can’t get into Bryson….have tried several times…
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
Nope
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Nope
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
Huh?
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
Nope
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
Yes but I didn’t like it much. Very average…surprised it has kept up its popularity
80 Possession - AS Byatt
Nope
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
Nope
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchel
Nope
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
Nope
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
Had planned on it but then didn’t like some of his other stuff so skipped it
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Nope
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
Nope
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
Yep
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
This book is total shit and I can’t believe someone actually suggested I read it. Jerk!!!!
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Nope
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
Nope
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
Don’t think so…
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Have been meaning to…
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
Haven’t heard of this…
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
Nope
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
Yes but I remember very little from it…need a quick refresher…
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
Nope
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
Yes and it’s so much fun!!!!
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
What’s with the repeats??? Loooooooooove Hamlet!
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
I don’t think so but can’t remember…
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Not a Hugo fan so skipped this one.

48 out of 100